- by Ian Cooke
Do you know one thing that I don’t really understand, despite my considerable age and life experience these days?
New Year’s Eve, that’s what, people drinking too much whilst watching another arbitrary Jools Holland rollout of various television characters. We then go outside to see a couple of fireworks, followed by a regrettable late night and a hangover to start a new year.
So in previous years on New Year’s Day, I’ve done trail races around Ravenscar, local 10 mile cycle time trials. There have been fellraces in Snowdonia, wildwater racing kayak races on the Goyt over in Manchester and openwater swims in Salford Docks.
This year however I had a torn meniscus in my left knee, meaning that I couldn’t walk or run. And so I was going to celebrate with my favourite go to pastime, love and obsession, sea kayaking!
I was going to spend a couple of hours in peaceful company with a gallery of wildlife in my trusty P&H Aries 150 on the wonderful Yorkshire coast.
Making life easy…….. follow the tides
I spent a lot of my early life kayaking on the Lleyn peninsula and so I know that the water roughly floods up Cardigan Bay. It then continues outwards towards Bardsey before wrapping through Bardsey Sound and then trucking up past Porth Dinllaen towards Anglesey.
Later on as I got into sea kayaking, I gravitated towards the west coast of Scotland. Here the water still broadly floods up the country from south to north. So in my head, floods go north and ebb tides go south.
Therefore I always have a little smile when this gets turned on its head when I go to the local coast around Scarborough. Here the water floods broadly south and retreats back north. Luckily, this also makes for cracking paddling if you jump on the back end of the modest flood tide and paddle with a little or no assistance until you get where you’re going at high tide. When you’ve arrived, you can spin around and come back north, perfect!
And so, on the 1st January, I pulled up at Cayton Bay above the beach at 8 o’clock ready for high water at 08:20. I had a broad plan to paddle high water slack down to the end of Filey Brigg against the wind, and then turn around and have a tiny little bit of ebb assistance behind me. A swell from the south and a light wind on my back would help even more. Perfect! I was going to graft my way out there and glide back on a conveyor belt of tide, swell and wind.
I unstrapped the boat after an hour’s drive to get there and was hopping with excitement after the dark roads to get to the coast.
Ooh! It’s perfect!
How many times have we been surfing, when we expect perfect conditions and find that they’re not so good? That’s how I felt as I carried my boat past the surf shop and down the lane to the steep concrete path leading down to the perfect sand of Cayton bay. At the tipping point where the land starts to go downhill, I got my first view of the sea. The view confirmed that today was going to be perfect!
Out in the south part of the bay, 6 or so surfers on longboards were enjoying a lazy slow 2 and a half foot break with a slight cross offshore breeze holding up the shoulders of the waves to give some great little rides.
From a kayaking point of view, I could see that the sea was clearly as calm as you could wish. I could also see a slight little swell, meaning that I would have to watch my back on the reefs.
And we’re off!
God, I love this Aries, it’s a classic sea kayak crossed with a flat bottomed whitewater playboat and flatspins on a wave. It turns so easily and makes me smile, which is what it’s all about!
So, I paddled off through the little surf line, past the break and pointed southwards towards Filey. The reefs on this day were simply amazing with probably a hundred seals watching inquisitively as I made my way past and on towards the natural arch just north of Filey Brigg.
On the way I had kept company with a dozen heron, lots of cormorants and hundreds and thousands of razorbills and guillemots living in their cliffside bird cities, just beautiful.
The natural arch is familiar to many people as it features prominently on the front cover of the excellent ‘Northern England and IOM – Fifty Great Sea Kayak Voyages’ written by our very own Jim Krawiecki. It’s a great shot and I wanted to get a similar one so spent a little bit of time floating around balancing paddle, camera and wave movements until I was happy……..
Photo time over, I carried on down the length of Filey Brigg, with typically choppy conditions from all directions until I’d paddled for about 8km’s and for 1 hour and 8 minutes, lovely!
I turned this little carbon beauty around and shot off home using a classic combination of swell, tide and tailwind. The boat surfed and glided home for a bit of surfing in a relatively speedy 58 minutes, not bad for a little short, fat boat!
The hardest part of all, a 30 metre high concrete climb
And so I came to the hardest test of all, the carry back to the car, up the near vertical concrete chimney that takes us away from Cayton Bay to the fields above! Halfway up, as my knees, quads and lungs were just complaining nicely, a polite couple stood aside off the path 80 metres uphill in front of me. Therefore, I had to carry on and do it in one go, smiling politely! I put my best poker face on to cover up the fact that I was quietly crying inside! 😊
Why getting out is so important for my happiness
This day gave a brilliant start to a new decade, I found nature on that day just so beautiful and inspiring. I regrounded myself and had put things into perspective that had been making my head spin in those last weeks. I was coping, sometimes not very well, with a parent with increasing dementia. He had had an extended spell in hospital with life threatening conditions and we repeatedly attended his bedside to say our goodbyes. My dad pulled though this episode, but on this day I did not know that this would be the future.
The great arena of nature washed me clean on this special New Year’s Day. The timeless crump, sand suck and retreat of the surf, the form of the cliffs and the winter grey yellow of the southern sky were utterly timeless.
I was rebalanced, energised and found once again a path for this life that made sense and enriched me.
I wish everyone a belated massive Happy New Year to everyone and keep being stoked peeps, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on!